Childhood obesity is an ongoing problem in the U.S. – almost one child out of every three is overweight or obese – so it is good to know many public figures are taking this issue seriously. Celebrity chef Jamie Oliver’s show “Food Revolution”, which airs tonight, focuses on reducing childhood obesity through better nutrition in schools. First Lady Michelle Obama created “Let’s Move”, an effort to get kids physically active, and she and the USDA just introduced “My Plate”, which focuses on teaching kids and parents about balancing calories and eating more fruits and vegetables.
But it looks like this strategy of promoting healthy food, appropriate portions, and exercise may be too complicated for Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) and House Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman Jack Kingston (R-GA). They have a simpler diet plan for young children: stop eating.
“Stop eating” is what Rep. Ryan and Rep. Kingston are saying to hundreds of thousands of kids who depend on WIC, the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children, which provides healthy food and nutrition counseling to roughly 2 million low-income women and about 7 million infants and children each month. This smart investment not only prevents hunger but has lasting benefits for children’s health and school readiness.
Nevertheless, cuts to WIC of more than $650 million (compared to FY 2011 levels), based on Rep. Ryan’s budget proposal and Rep. Kingston’s House Agriculture Appropriations subcommittee bill, were approved by the full House Appropriations Committee on May 31. The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities estimates that these funding cuts will force WIC to turn away between 200,000 and 350,000 eligible participants next year. If these cuts go through, this would be the first time in 15 years the program won’t be able to serve all eligible participants.
So put down your forks (or your bottles), kids – it’s going to be a long, hungry year.